2017 Cliff Harris Award Winner Announced

December 23, 2017


Honors Nation’s Small College Defensive Player of the Year

Michael Joseph, senior defensive back from the University of Dubuque, was selected as the winner of the 2017 Cliff Harris Award presented annually by the Little Rock Touchdown Club and Wright Lindsey Jennings, LLP. He becomes the first Division III player to win the award which honors the nation’s small college defensive player of the year representing Division II, Division III and NAIA colleges and universities.

More than 5,000 defensive players from approximately 500 colleges are eligible to win the award. The $3,000 Cliff Harris Award trophy will be presented by Cliff Harris at the Little Rock Touchdown Club’s annual awards banquet on January 11 with special guest speaker and NFL Hall of Fame member Marcus Allen.

The 6’1, 180-pounder from Oswego, Illinois, was a first team AFCA All-American, first team AP Little All-American and first team D3Football.com All-American. He was named 2017 Iowa Conference Defensive Player of the Year and was first team All-Conference for three consecutive years.

Joseph led the Iowa Conference with eight interceptions and was tied for third in passes intercepted per game nationally in Division III. Twice he recorded three interceptions in a game and also added 16 passes defended, eight pass break ups and 56 tackles. He also added a 96 yard kick off return for a touchdown on his first and only career kick off return opportunity this season.

Joseph will be participating in the 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama on Jan 27th.

The Cliff Harris Award recognizes the top vote recipients from all three divisions

Division III & overall winner – Michael Joseph, 6’1 180, Sr. Defensive Back, University of Dubuque

Division II  – TIE
Marcus Martin, 6’2 255, Sr. Defensive Lineman, Slippery Rock (Pa.)
Nathan Shepherd, 6’5 300, Sr. Defensive Lineman, Fort Hays State

NAIA – Darius Price, 6’2 215, Sr. Defensive Back, Siena Heights

Division II Top Vote Recipient (Tie)  –

 Marcus Martin, 6’5 300, Sr Defensive Lineman, Fort Hays State

One of the most decorated defensive lineman in NCAA history, Martin capped off his career with 15 1/2 sacks and 26 1/2 tackles for losses, both which led the nation. He finished his career as the all-division  sack leader with 56 and set a new Division II record for career tackles for loss with 92 1/2. This first team AFCA All-American and three-time PSAC West Defensive Athlete of the Year also captured the Gene Upshaw Award for most outstanding defensive or offensive lineman in Division II

Marcus Martin

Division II Top Vote Recipient (Tie)  –

Nathan Shepherd, 6’5 300, Sr Defensive Lineman, Fort Hays State

This first team AFCA All American and MIAA Defensive Player of the Year led Fort Hays State to it’s first-ever MIAA conference championship and the second round of the DII playoffs. From an interior defensive lineman position where he was often double teamed, Shepherd posted 12.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage plus 4 sacks, meaning more than a third of his 38 tackles on the season were for losses. The three-time All-MIAA selection will be participating in the 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama on Jan 27th

Nathan Shepherd

NAIA Top Vote Recipient – 

Darius Price, 6’2 215, Sr. Defensive Back, Siena Heights

Price was named a first team American Football Coaches Association All-American & Mid-States Football Association Defensive Player of the Year. He collected 41 tackles, 9 pass break ups, 2 fumble recoveries, and a sack for the Saints in 2017. This Saginaw, Michigan native was also a rare four-time All-MSFA performer.